February 6, 2005

Where is the Moral Outrage? Part IV

The problem of intellectual harassment in academia is so pervasive that, I am sorry to say, Where is the Moral Outrage? is now an ongoing series. This posting builds on previous postings here, here, and here.

Marc has highlighted several other recent examples of a Brown University professor and Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado.

In further commentary on Ward Churchill, Power Line highlights another example of the pathetic behavior within the academy. In that posting, they quote Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprises Institute:

First, "freedom of speech" on most major university campuses nowadays is a fraud. When America's greatest living historian of the antebellum south, Stephan Thernstrom [of Harvard], is prevented from teaching that course ["The Peopling of America"] because black students protest against a white man teaching it, you know that free speech is over. I work at a place staffed with people who should, by the quality of their work, be in major university chairs, but they are not because the universities do not want people with those ideas. So nobody should think that there's "freedom of speech" to defend.

Continuing on, they then expand on the Thernstrom situation:

In 1988 three students accused Professor Thernstrom of "racial insensitivity" in teaching his "Peopling of America" course as a result of his discussion of Jim Crow laws and his quotation from Southern plantation journals in a lecture. The response of the Harvard administration to the students' baseless charges against him left Professor Thernstrom profoundly unsatisfied:
I felt like a rape victim, and yet the silence of the administration seemed to give the benefit of the doubt to the students who attacked me. Maybe I was naive, but I expected the university to come to my defense. I mean, that's what academic freedom is about, isn't it? Instead I was left out there by myself, guilty without being proven guilty. I could not even defend myself, because the charge of racism and racial insensitivity is ultimately unanswerable.

Professor Thernstrom decided for the foreseeable future not to offer his "Peopling of America" course. "It just isn't worth it," he said. "Professors who teach race issues encounter such a culture of hostility, among some students, that some of these questions are simply not teachable any more, at least not in an honest, critical way."

The American academy should be ashamed of itself. This is behavior we would expect out of the former Soviet Union, not America.